TaleSlinger: Coherent Magic Systems pt.3
Hi folks! Welcome back to TaleSlinger where I take 3 decades of writing, and try to turn it into advice.
Right now I’m working on a series of posts about building magic into the very fabric of your universe, and for this I'm using James Barclay’s Raven books.
Last time I talked about how the Raven themselves, as a small group, make use of their mages in battle.
Next up, let's go a bit bigger! I talked a little about the Protectors last time, but there's much more to say about them before I go full wide-shot and look at the armies.
The Protectors are a very specific creation, belonging solely to Xetesk.
The Xetesk reputation as the Dark College is well earned, though they have ceased using their city to take people for human sacrifices and the like. But those deeds cast a long shadow, and nowhere is that more obvious than their continued use of the “demon” dimension.
Demon is the word everyone in this dimension uses, so that's what we're going with.
Currently they have three main uses for the demons. I talked about Denser’s Familiar last time, that's one. Xetesk mages can also use their connection to that dimension to recharge their mana more quickly than other mages.
But the biggest use they still retain is the Protectors.
Future Protectors were marked pretty much at birth (but they pinky swear they aren’t planning to make any more), and trained from a young age. They aren't always told why they're training so hard, because of the fear of them running far, far away, which doesn't stop them being snatched and forced into becoming one, but makes it less convenient.
A Protector is formed by the use of a DemonChain, which removes the soul from the body and drops it into a specially made tank. This gives the Protectors both their immense advantages, and their greatest fears.
Once a Protector, they must wear a full face mask at all times, only being permitted to remove it at night, in the dark, when nobody else can see, to apply balms which soothe the never-healing sores on their skin.
If they remove their mask in front of others, Punishment is enacted. The only exception is other Protectors—although even then. they have a superstition that to meet the eyes of another is to bring death in the next battle.
If they disobey an order, Punishment is enacted.
If whoever is currently holding the reins decides to just for the hell of it…Punishment is enacted.
Punishment is to allow the demons holding the chain to take possession of that soul and torture it for as long as they wish. The only thing that can be done for a Protector who has this happen, is to kill them quickly. It doesn't stop the soul torture, but it at least stops the agonising physical pain.
But the fear of Punishment is tempered by the benefits.
While in the Soul Tank, the Protectors communicate with the speed of thought, making them incredibly effective in battle, as well as giving them a closeness, a bond, that isn’t possible anywhere else.
They wield both a greataxe and a two-handed sword—and they can use one in each hand. And because each of them has an overlapping view of the front line, those thoughts that tear between them can tell a fellow Protector to block a blow, without them even needing to see it. They simply block where the thought tells them the blow is coming. They never need to look anywhere but ahead.
I’m sure you can imagine that this, plus the masks, and the large weapons, and stacks of muscle, is…incredibly intimidating! Plus, they are silent. They barely even breathe harder, and they don’t make any noises one might associate with a battle—no grunts of exertion or pain, no orders issued aloud, nothing, just a silent, faceless, machine of death.
But there's more!
Because a Protector has a natural shield against magic, when they overlap in formation, it's almost pointless to try and get through it. Added bonus: these shields also protect anyone else in proximity.
But their lives are solely of servitude. They cannot act without orders, and the Lord of the Mount (the person in charge of the entirety of Xetesk College) can assign any Protectors to anyone else—and remove them—at will. When at the College, they are assigned to protect the Lord of the Mount, other mages, and the College itself, all of which gives the same effect as being assigned to a Given.
This point is crucial though, because having a Given strengthens their bond, makes them faster, stronger, more connected to each other. If their Given dies, they lose that boost to their connection and things get a lot more difficult.
So we have this whole separate army, who live constantly in both joy and fear—joy of their connection to their brothers, fear of the touch of the demons—with innate magic shielding, incredible speed and strength, and they are totally under the control of their Given.
That's not to say they can't rebel…just that they're very aware of the cost of doing so.
And as for freeing them, well, that's a giant pain in the butt, and would cost Xetesk their most powerful weapon. So why in the world would they do that? 🤷♂️
Of course, not everyone agrees with this whole deal, but without the numbers and the backing, doing anything about it is difficult. Xetesk in particular rewards research and innovation, and also killing the mage above you to get their status for yourself, which generally means that the mages willing to kill are the ones that get to the top, so they aren’t generally the most sympathetic or empathetic of people.
So the Protectors have a few roles to play: fear, brute strength, silent attack (they’re not stealthy on purpose, just quiet), magical protection, the ability to communicate and act at lightning speed, dexterity, toughness…
It’s a formidable army, and nobody wants to face a line of Protectors!
The idea behind these fighters is really interesting, and ties very well into Xetesk’s view of the world (i.e.: it and everyone in it is theirs to control). And it’s another way in which magic is embedded into the very heart of this world.
It’s also a way in which demons are embedded into the very heart of this world, but we’ll come back to them later!
That’s everything for this one! I hope the picture is starting to become clear in your mind. Please do me a favour and take a moment to share this, and subscribe if you’ve not already done so! When I hit 100 people, there’ll be a nice surprise for everyone.
But just before I go, I’d like to introduce you to Loreteller! He posts some excellent things on writing, psychology, worldbuilding, and more. It’s a great writers resource, getting right into the nitty gritty of how to build your characters and the world around them. Go check him out!
See you next time